BHUBANESWAR:Three-time Odisha chief minister and former Assam governor Janaki Ballav Patnaik passed away early on Tuesday at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh marking the end of an era in State politics. He was 89. He is survived by his wife, former MP Jayanti Patnaik, son Pruthvi, daughters Sudatta and Supriya.
Janaki Ballav went to Tirupati on Monday to attend a convocation of the Tirupati Rashtriya Sanskrit University of which he was the Chancellor. He was admitted to a private hospital at Tirupati after he felt severe pain in his chest. He passed away around 3 am.
His mortal remains reached Bhubaneswar in the afternoon. His body has been kept in his Forest Park residence for people to pay their last respects. The cremation will take place at Swargadwar in Puri after his body is taken to his village Rameswar on Wednesday.
Thousands of people from all walks of life, including Governor S C Jamir, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, ministers, former ministers, MPs, MLAs and leaders cutting across party lines paid their last respects to Janaki Ballav.
The State Government has declared seven days mourning in his honour. An official holiday was declared on Tuesday. Born on January 3, 1927 at Rameswar in Khurdha district, Janaki Ballav was the chief minister for two consecutive terms from 1980 to 1989 and then again from 1995 to 1999.
Elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1971 from the prestigious Cuttack Lok Sabha seat, Janaki Ballav served in the Cabinet of Indira Gandhi as the Civil Aviation, Tourism and Labour Minister in 1980. He was Deputy Minister of Defence in Indira Gandhi’s Council of Ministers from 1973 to 1975 and became the Minister of State for Defence till 1977.
He was appointed Governor of Assam in 2009 and was among the few governors appointed by the UPA government who were allowed to complete their full term by the NDA Government.
He was also the president of the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) four times from 1977-1980, 1992-98, 1999-2001 and 2003-04. He was the Leader of the Opposition in the Odisha Assembly from 2004 to 2009. He was elected to the Odisha Assembly five times and twice to the Lok Sabha.
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The former chief minister was also an acclaimed writer. He won the Central Sahitya Akademi for his Odia translation of Bankim Chandra’s novels titled ‘Bankim Chandra Upanyasmala’ in 2001 and the Odisha Sahitya Akademi award for his book ‘Bairagya Shataka’, a translation of Bhartruhari’s celebrated Sanskrit work in 1996.
He also translated the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Shrimad Bhagabat into Odia. His other works were ‘Sindhu Upatyaka’ and ‘Gautam Buddha.’
Janaki Ballav was also the Chancellor of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha (RSVP) in Tirupati. He was invited to take part in the convocation scheduled to be held on Tuesday. “On Monday night, after returning to the university guest house from a darshan at Tirumala, he developed severe chest pain at around 2.15 am and was immediately taken to SVIMS, where the doctors confirmed his demise,” said R Ravi Sankar Reddy, Deputy Superintendent of Police.
His adeptness in Sanskrit language had earned him the title ‘Prajnana Vachaspati,’ a highest doctorate degree of a university. Janaki Ballav, during his visit, is said to have reviewed Volume 1 of his brainchild project, ‘Multi-lingual Etymological Dictionary,’ which provides accurate meanings of Sanskrit words in 14 languages, and set August 15 deadline.
Leaders of all political parties in the State have expressed profound grief over Janaki Ballav’s demise.